2017: 10 Years of Marching Music

The Army Bowl enters its 17th year this coming week in San Antonio, TX. It wasn’t until 2007 that it was determined that a traditional halftime show was exactly what the Army Bowl needed. To provide the CliffsNotes version of the story, the 2008 USAAAMB was formed. After all, what football game doesn’t involve a marching band? 2017 also marks the 10th anniversary of the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band. In many conversations with USAAAMB Program Manager, Brian Prato, he always mentioned simply hoping for a year two after year one. He also mentions keeping a trashcan nearby and during that first performance, just in case. After many challenges and proud moments, 2017 brings a whole new light to the program.

Each year has brought fond – but different – memories for the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band members. Thinking back to 2009, I distinctly remember the Crossmen food truck meals and over-sized rehearsal tees and wind suits. 2015 was the year of wind and rain…oh and yellow rehearsal outfits – like, REALLY yellow. While many things have changed the All-American experience, a few things remain – the lasting impressions of the U.S. Army and the memories shared by long-time friends.

Over 1200 band and colorguard students have walked through the tunnel of the Alamodome, donned in a DeMoulin uniform, show makeup and hair, and united by the common love of performance. It is the involvement of the U.S. Army that makes the experience of the USAAAMB truly unique.

Increased media presence, the switch to adidas branded gear, and a growing operations team are things that come to mind when thinking of the changes the USAAAMB experienced. The list could go on and on. The band has rehearsed at Lackland Air Force Base, Fort Sam Houston, and many more pins on the map. An experience such as the one provided by the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band simply stands alone.

Years have gone by and many alumni have married, had children, and are exploring a degree or career. A group of alumni will be reuniting in San Antonio this year to celebrate the incoming 2017 class and share the common thread of the marching arts once again.

On behalf of all the alumni, thank you to the U.S. Army and the U.S. Army Field Band, the National Association for Music Education, Drum Corps International (DCI), Jupiter Band InstrumentsDeMoulin Brothers Uniforms and a crowd of additional supporters that grant this opportunity to young musicians and colorguard members each year. A short trip to San Antonio leaves a lasting impression on all of us!

**ALUMNI – share your memories in the comments below! What stands out from your year in San Antonio?


’16 USAAAMB Drum Major Named

This past weekend at Drum Corps International Finals, the USAAAMB was given the opportunity to name their new 2016 U.S. Army All-American Drum Major.

A crowd of over 22,000 was present at this year’s Finals, not including the crowds at preliminary competitions leading up to Saturday evening. Drumline Battle and SoundSport filled the streets of Indianapolis nearly all day on Saturday, concluding with a highly competitive evening of sight and sound at Lucas Oil Stadium. Marching Music’s Major League, as DCI is often deemed, concluded with a third place finish of the Bluecoats (Canton, OH), second place finish of Carolina Crown (Fort Mill, SC) and a first place finish for the Blue Devils (Concord, CA).

At intermission, Paul Nierman, President of the National Association for Music Education, 2015 Drum Major Emily Swanson, Staff Sergeant Jacquelyn Jones, and DM Ceremony2016-2017 Lead Director of the USAAAMB Ken Bodiford welcomed in 2016 Drum Major, Vitaliy Popovych of Heritage High School in Ringgold, GA. Popovych is pictured here in his high school uniform, soon to don the colors of the U.S. Army. The band shako was passed to Popovych as Swanson retires her role as Drum Major.

A night full of emotion for the drum corps performers was equated in the families of these two young musicians. We thank and congratulate 2015 Drum Major Emily Swanson as she continues on to Bowling Green State University, where she plans to be in the college marching band. Popovych will have his official Selection Tour recognition ceremony at his high school this fall so his peers may also share in this honor.


Emily Swanson, Lead Director Dr. Ken Bodiford, and Vitaliy Popovych pose for a photo after the ceremony. Photo credit: Julia Cardillo, DCI

For more information on the 2017 U.S. Army All-American Marching Band, visit nafme.org/usaaamb.

USAAAMB at a DCI event near you this summer!

As the marching arts season gears up for another triumphant run, the USAAAMB joins in!

Every year, we make a point to visit major marching music events to share the opportunity of the All-American program with the Drum Corps International public. We conclude each summer with the “Passing of the Shako” Ceremony during Saturday night’s intermission of DCI World Championships at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where we recognize our new drum major for the upcoming year.

This year’s event plan is entirely different than anything we have executed before. Starting in Hamilton, OH on July 25, our “DCI Fan Van” will follow the tour over 2000 miles to the completion of tour at DCI World Championships in Indianapolis on August 8.

You can find our representatives at the following locations, promoting the band program and speaking to the public about what it takes to become an All-American:

Hamilton, OH – July 25 – Hamilton Drum Corps Classic
Dublin, OH – July 27 – Emerald City Music Games
Erie, PA – July 28 – Lake Erie Fanfare
Chester, PA – July 30 – Tour of Champions: PPL Park
Allentown, PA – July 31 through August 1 – DCI Eastern Classic
Pittsburgh, PA – August 2 – DCI Pittsburgh presented by Three Rivers SUMMER MUSIC GAMES
Centerville, OH – August 3 – Soaring Sounds 36
Indianapolis, IN – August 6 through 8 – DCI World Championships

Students entering their Junior year in the fall of 2015 are welcome to visit with us and ask questions about how the process works! Auditions for the 2017 program are already in the works and will officially open in November 2015. We look forward to speaking with students, parents and band directors about the possibilities for admittance to our program.

Make sure you stop by our booth and get all the info you need for class of 2017 auditions and beyond!

Good Morning Marching Band

Saturday Morning from Presidio B in the Grand Hyatt

Saturday Morning from Presidio B in the Grand Hyatt

The sun is rising on San Antonio this morning. In two days, our 2015 U.S. Army All-Americans will be arriving. This year hosts a variety of students destined to become future music educators, world travelers, doctors and so much more. 125 sponsor giveaway bags have been packed (thank you!), apparel has been divided, drill books have arrived, and the anticipation is growing. The big band puzzle is coming together and the final pieces are our students.

Throughout the week, we will be taking a look into the lives of some of our band members this year. Erika Larsen, a piccolo player, joins us from West Potomac High School. Check out her story here:

Each year, our alumni send a special message to our new class of All-Americans. When the week is over, they join an alumni family. Erika says it best when she states “…do what you love”. From one alumni to all of our 2015 All-Americans, do what you love…and do it well. I know you will.

Keep an eye on all of our social media channels for updates and featured students.

Jakob Womack, ’14 Alumnus, Selected for The Commandant’s Own

Womack.JakobJakob Womack was a member of our baritone section this past year. While he is an outstanding student and a Bluecoats Drum & Bugle Corps member, Jakob has also been selected as one of the members of  The Commandant’s Own Marine Corps Drum & Bugle Corps. We are beyond excited for him to add this to his repertoire! I had the chance to discuss the process with him and he explained his desire to join the military.

He stated, “I’ve wanted to join the military since I started high school, but I also wanted to continue with music. After marching drum corps for two years, I heard about the Commandant’s Own and decided to give it a shot. I had to go through a series of auditions, my first being October 22 of 2013 and my last being March 31 of 2014.”

Jakob says he knew about his placement in the corps before the sergeant even left his home that day.

I always ask alumni how they believe the USAAAMB has impacted their lives since they left San Antonio. To Jakob, the USAAAMB changed his communication skills and upped his confidence. Jakob will soon be immersed into a new group of musicians, assured that he has the ability to make new friends, work as a team and put together a great performance.

Jakob, we are very proud of your hard work and wish you the best! You have done, and will continue to do, great things!


Alumnus Justin Ahn Earns his Wings

Justin Ahn, a 2011 Clarinetist, has been a part of the ROTC program at New York University since his graduation from high school. Justin has returned to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl numerous times to assist with the band and has been a great asset to the alumni group.

This past weekend, Justin graduated from Airborne School at Fort Benning in Georgia. While there, he also met up with 2012 Mellophone, SPC Kelsey Ferneau, a horn player for the Maneuver Center of Excellence band based out of Fort Benning.

Justin has earned his wings! Congrats Justin!

Justin and Kelsey reunite in Ft. Benning!

Justin and Kelsey reunite in Ft. Benning!

Kelsey Ferneau, ’12 Mellophone Alumna, Top Soloist!

Kelsey recently won the Division I Solo Competition at the Atlanta Horn Clinic Summer Symposium! SPC Ferneau is a member of the Maneuver Center of Excellence Band at Fort Benning in Georgia and played mellophone in the 2012 U.S. Army All-American Marching Band. Read the full story about her accomplishment here!

Kelsey has returned to assist the All-American Band numerous times during bowl week in San Antonio! She is not only a great musician but a wonderful asset to the community. We are proud to call her an alumna!

2009 Alum to Take on the U.S. Navy Band

Dakota Corbliss, a 2009 mellophone alum, has accepted a position with the U.S. Navy Band! Dakota auditioned in early June and accepted the position on horn this past week. It is estimated that Dakota will head to basic training in early 2015.

Dakota mentioned that the whole thing has been a complete whirlwind from auditions to hearing the news this week. We wish him the best of luck and are very excited for him!

Alumni now grace 3 of our armed forces’ music programs. The U.S. Army’s Traditional Army Bands, the Commandant’s Own Marine Corps Drum & Bugle Corps, and the U.S. Navy Band are lucky to have you all!

Alumni Get Involved: A New Program for Our Collegiate Students

For the first time, a program has become available to our alumni college students! The USAAAMB is proud to present the All-American Delegate Program. The program serves as a source of professional growth for the All-American Alumni through event planning, team management, and promotions. The program takes the core values of the U.S. Army and reflects them into the community. Alumni apply for the program and once they are accepted, they are given their assignment that All-Americans are completing across the United States.

Each year, the program will introduce a new project to be completed during the academic year at the specific Delegate’s college. The events will range from food drives to charity concerts and beyond. As a result, students around the nation will be impacted by this program. Word is spread about what the USAAAMB offers, what the U.S. Army does for civilians each and every day, and that music education is a vital source for success in any student community no matter how small.

Music Education offers something that is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Musicians and their educators endure sleepless nights, have extreme dedication, and mental strain. No matter what activity a student does, they should do what they love and do it well. This Delegate Program is a reminder that a musician’s dedication to the betterment of music education should not end when they don their graduation cap. Even if a student chooses to discontinue their musicianship, the musical pathway for those following them should not be threatened. Music provides opportunity and the Delegate Program serves as a reminder.

Look for events coming soon near you and be sure to join us in the celebration of music, community, and social betterment!

Alumni Spotlight: Scott Kelly

This 2008 alum is likely one of the greatest ambassadors to the All-American program. Scott is the first alumni to make it to a commissioned officer status, meaning Scott has earned his college degree. Scott has a list of accomplishments since his time in the USAAAMB. He graduated from Penn State in 2012 and achieved Ranger status this past year. He recently earned his EIB (Expert Infantryman Badge). We are honored to have him featured in the alumni newsletter this month!


Joining the Army was a decision Scott made in order to better himself. “I didn’t like the idea that someone else was willing to do more to help me than I was, so I joined and then volunteered for the infantry,” he stated. Within this past year, Scott has attended and completed Ranger School, a grueling experience that few conquer. Less than 1% of the U.S. Army is Ranger qualified. Scott explained the process in his interview. “Ranger School is the Army’s premier leadership and small unit tactics school. Students spend 62 days training and operating in a simulated combat environment, under conditions of extended food and sleep deprivation. After passing an initial three day evaluation consisting of a physical fitness test, obstacle course, day and night land navigation, combative (unarmed combat), water confidence test, and 12 mile road march they move on to tactical training. For this, students conduct numerous reconnaissance, raid, and ambush missions on wooded, mountainous, and swamp terrain. Sleeping an hour or less a night and eating one meal a day is normal, as is carrying loads in excess of 100lbs. Roughly 1 in 3 students complete the course, those who do will lose between 20 and 30lbs by the end. ”

Scott’s intense description of Ranger School coincides with all of the structured goals he has put forth for himself post high school. Attaining his college degree, joining the infantry, becoming a Ranger and earning his EIB are all just a part of the beginning.

Many alumni that are featured are asked to explain how band has affected their professional career. His explanation is one of a kind.

He stated, “Everything I needed to be successful in the Army, I learned in band.

I learned that to be early was to be on time, to be on time was to be late, and to be late was unacceptable.

I learned to always have my pencil and a place to take notes. I learned repetition was the only way to ensure proficiency, and physical and mental talent meant nothing compared to consistent, well-disciplined practice and rehearsal.

I learned to always check my uniform and packing list of equipment before a gig, and that enough duct tape could fix anything.

I learned to wait patiently and quietly for my director during a 5-hour rehearsal block where we never actually got to the part of music where I actually played (and I learned not be bitter about it).

I learned the difficulty and importance of coordinating assets in time and space.

I learned I was only as valuable as my contribution to the group.

Some of my old friends from my band days and some of my new Army buddies are surprised that I went from band to the Army and now the infantry; but, being in band was the best thing I could have ever done to prepare for it. Now, that being said… {lR rL..lR rL //////// R rl}.”

What a way to describe all of the values that a student musician can bring to this world as a young professional! Scott is an unstoppable force in his list of goals. His next responsibility is to take over a Heavy Weapons Platoon in a few weeks. He is preparing for a deployment to the Joint Readiness Training Center in January. Eventually, he hopes to work towards his PhD in International Diplomacy.